Thursday, 31 August 2017

Call for Papers: A Study in Sidekicks: The Detective’s Assistant in Crime Fiction

Editors: Dr Lucy Andrew (University of Chester), Samuel Saunders (Liverpool John Moores University)

I am lost without my Boswell’, Sherlock Holmes says of his trusty sidekick Dr John Watson in ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ (1891). Biographer, narrator, observer, assistant, companion, conscience, foil, fool, audience surrogate – the role of the detective’s sidekick is multifaceted, complex and continually evolving.

This collection aims to explore the changing representations and functions of the detective’s sidekick across a range of forms and subgenres of crime fiction from the nineteenth century to the present day. Forms may include: magazine short stories, serial or non-serial novels, ‘penny dreadfuls’, juvenile story papers, dime and half-dime novels, comics and graphic novels, radio drama, stage plays, film and television, video games. Genres may include: sensation fiction, the locked-room mystery, Golden Age detective fiction (including the clue puzzle and the hard-boiled detective novel), the police procedural, historical crime fiction, supernatural crime fiction, the serial killer thriller, the psychothriller.

The collection aims to pose and explore a number of questions, including:
* When did the detective’s sidekick first appear and why?
* How do we define the sidekick? What is the distinction between the partner and the sidekick?
* What functions does the detective’s sidekick perform?(How) do these functions change over time?
* (How) does the representation of the sidekick vary between different forms and subgenres of crime fiction?
* At which point in crime-fiction’s development was the sidekick’s importance at its peak?Is the sidekick tradition declining in the twenty-first century?
Topics may include but are not limited to:
* The origins and development of the sidekick
* The functions of the sidekick
* Detective/sidekick relationships
* The female sidekick
* The child sidekick
* The animal sidekick (e.g. Jerry Lee (K-9); Diefenbaker (Due South); Pedro the bloodhound (Sexton Blake); Snowy (Tin Tin); Flash (Valerie Drew))
* The sidekick in sensation fiction (e.g. Gabriel Betteredge/Ezra Jennings (The Moonstone); George Talboys (Lady Audley’s Secret); Captain Wragge (No Name))
* The supernatural sidekick (e.g. Bob in The Dresden Files)
* The criminal as sidekick (e.g. Dr Hannibal Lecter)
* The sidekick as suspect/villain (e.g. Dr James Sheppard)
* The sidekick as narrator and/or biographer (e.g. Dr John Watson)
* The sidekick as hero(ine)
* The sidekick as victim (e.g. George Talboys in Lady Audley’s Secret)
* Multiple sidekicks (e.g. Mervyn Bunter, (Chief) Inspector Parker and Harriet Vane)
* Modern interpretations of classic sidekicks (e.g. Joan Watson in Elementary)
* The sidekick’s comic potential
* The sacrificial sidekick
* The corruption of the sidekick
* The marginality of the sidekick
* The absence and/or loss of the sidekick
* Romance, sexuality and the sidekick
Sidekicks under scrutiny may include:
* Gabriel Betteredge/Ezra Jennings
* George Talboys
* Dr John Watson
* Captain Arthur J.M. Hastings
* Mervyn Bunter/Chief Inspector Parker/Harriet Vane
* Robert ‘Robbie’ Lewis/DS James Hathaway
* Robin (in his various incarnations: Dick Grayson; Jason Todd; Tim Drake; Damian Wayne)
* Maddy Magellan, Carla Borrego, Joey Ross, Polly Creek (Jonathan Creek sidekicks)

Please submit an abstract of 300-350 words and biography of 50-100 words to Lucy Andrew ( and Sam Saunders ( by Monday 13th November 2017.

Completed essays of 7-8,000 words will be due by Monday 4th June 2018.

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